Historical Plaque Properties


John Whimster - Stonemason
189 Queen Street West
St. Marys, ON

This spacious yellow brick home was built by local stonemason John Whimster for his retirement years with family.  He purchased this vacant property for $500 in 1876; likely construction began in 1877, when the assessment climbed to $1000, and finished in 1878 when the assessment was listed at $2000.


John Whimster was born February 12, 1815 in Thurso, Caithness, Scotland to father, John (1770) and mother, Ann Forbes (1790) who were married on June 24, 1809.  Their older son, James, had been born in 1809.

John, who had become a stonemason, married Elizabeth Frances Swanson June 26, 1835 in Thurso.  Elizabeth was born in Crosskirk, Caithness on November 19, 1815. They also had a son named John, who was born April 13, 1838 in Scotland. The young family immigrated to Canada about 1841, to Kingston, then to Thorold where he worked on the Welland Canal in 1843.  One day while a number of men where lifting a large stone for the structure of the canal, John recognized the voice of an old friend, and fellow stonemason, whom he had worked with 8 years previously in Scotland, Francis Anderson.


They rekindled their friendship and settled in the St. Marys area together.  John settled his family on a 162 acre farm at Lot #7 Concession 15, Blanchard Township, on the Thames River at Nichol's Mill, purchased from the Canada Company on November 18, 1844.  They lived in a shanty as noted in the 1851 Census, and by 1861, he had built a two storey stone home.  Whimster is also credited with building the Miller’s House and the Mill at Glengowan Dam, owned by Peter Nicol.


John Whimster, Francis Anderson, and Andrew Knox were the stonemasons responsible for both the George Tracy House and its wall in front, completed in 1884. This property is now Cadzow Park, and its “Castle in the Bush” is now home to the St Marys Museum, restored and open to the public. Local stonemasons, likely including the three friends, worked 1857 to 1859 on the Grand Trunk trestle bridges, massive stonework piers to support the steel girders for the railway lines. One spanned the Thames River toward Sarnia, and the other crossed Trout Creek valley to convey the Grand Trunk Railway branch line to London.


On their farm, John and Elizabeth welcomed five more children James (1843), Margaret Ellen (1845) Ann (1847), Margery (Marjory) (1850), and Elizabeth Frances (1851).  John, their Scotland born son, was listed as a farmer on his death certificate. He died of hepatitis on April 28, 1873.  James married Elizabeth “Ruth” Rutherford Dickson on February 16, 1892 Gladston, Huron County. They went to Aurora, Ontario where James was a prosperous dry goods merchant and died there in 1935. Margaret married Thomas Vallance Crocker, a mechanic, on May 18, 1872 in Blanchard Township, Ontario.  They had 3 daughters, Effie, Lily and Dellia.  Lily is listed in the 1891 Census as living with John and Marjory.  Margaret died March 20, 1930. Ann married David Johns on April 8, 1874 in St Marys, and died in 1920.  Elizabeth was unmarried and moved to Toronto. 
Marjory never married and lived with her parents on the farm until they moved into St. Marys in 1878.  Her mother, Elizabeth, died autumn 1879.  Marjory became the sole owner of the Queen Street West home in 1898.  In the 1901 Census Margaret is listed as living with John and Marjory.  Her father, John, died autumn 1904.  Marjory remained in the house until 1914.  She died in Aurora, Ontario on October 6, 1929.  She is buried with her parents, her niece Lillian, sisters Margaret, and Elizabeth (d. 1920), and their brother, John, in St Marys Cemetery.